Over the holidays I had the opportunity to travel to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, aka Red Rocks outside of Las Vegas, Nevada for the first time in my climbing career. It was a very motivating trip for me and I have to think that after spending three weeks there, it offers some of the best bouldering the US has to offer. I’ll touch on a few of the high points.
The first thing I did was get in touch with local Tom Moulin. Tom authored what is arguably the best bouldering guidebook ever written, Southern Nevada Bouldering. Tom also regularly updates his vimeo page with new problems. Check that out here. Tom reminded me that in all the areas I’ve visited, all the climbers I’ve talked to, that I’ve only met one other local climber I couldn’t stump with a question or inquiry. He quite literally had an answer for everything. It’s obvious to me that Tom has done his homework and put the time in to understand every nook and cranny in the Red Rocks formation. Not only that, but his contribution of FAs is to be highly commended. Many of the most classic problems that aren’t V12 were found or climbed first by Tom. Nice to have someone so knowledgeable to show you around!
As those who know me well know, I don’t sit still. I feel time is of the essence, and I work hard to be as efficient as possible. Generally, I don’t take rest days on a climbing trip unless they are completely forced. As was the case in Australia, I hiked, if not climbed, every day, even if the weather was horrendous. Exploring, hunting, finding, and creating my own detailed personal catalogue of everything I find provides great personal joy. I’ve always had a lot of motivation from these things and it’s the only natural thing I really know how to do when I show up at a new area. It’s not worth my time to sit around on the internet or in a movie theater knowing there’s so much rock to look at, terrain to explore, or projects to clean. Tom I feel is a kindred spirit, and he happily met up with me on some of the worst days, and willingly showed me a number of outstanding projects.
The rock is Vegas is generally good, and the features range from difficult-to-hang open-handed edges, to near iron-hard incut crimps. Just like any place there is certainly some choss to pick through, but when it does form solid features it’s fair to say it’s amazing. Tom’s FA Ariana V6 stands out as one of the best examples of just how good the rock can be. Finding new projects is always at the heart of my climbing but the bouldering in Red Rocks is so good it was difficult not to want to put at least some effort into any number of the established lines. At the top of the list was Wet Dream, a V12 established by Ethan Pringle. I put several days into the line, doing all of the difficult moves. The third day I struggled a bit though and decided it was too much to devote my whole trip to trying to climb this classic boulder, so I moved on. But it remains something I’d love to go back and try some more. The other problems in Black Velvet Canyon were incredible as well, Abbadon V12 established by Pete Lowe and Atlas Shrugged V12 established by Jon Cardwell (stand start V9 by Tom Moulin). Ethan, Pete, and Paul Robinson have made tremendous contributions any number of classic and difficult lines in Red Rocks. Their efforts did not go unnoticed.
I also spent some time in Gateway Canyon, on the northern side of the formation. Gateway is a narrow and beautiful canyon away from the crowds and the heat at the Kraft Boulders. It holds an outstanding collection of big, proud, and difficult lines and is home to such classics as Meadowlark Lemon (FA Paul Robinson) (which broke while I was there but was reclimbed with an alternate sequence for the top, as seen demonstrated here by French climber Guillaume Glairon Mondet), The Book of Nightmares V11 (FA Pete Lowe), The Abstraction V8 (FA Pete Lowe), Acrite V12 (FA Paul Robinson) and Americana Exotica V10 (FA Pete Lowe). I did manage to climb Lethal Design V11, another Pete Lowe problem in the area. Tom was on hand to capture uncut video of my ascent:
Another day I was invited to check out a newer area, and there were a number of classic projects. Isaac Calderio was with the crew that day and he and I rapped in on a big imposing face. Certain to be double digits and possibly four stars, this was one of the best projects I saw on the trip. Unfortunately that was a non-climbing day, so I didn’t even get the chance to try! Here is a photo of Isaac at the base of the the project. Stand start on a good left facing sidepull, make a huge move to a decent edge (most likely the crux) then some tenuous hand switching followed by an outrageous but doable mantle into a smooth scoop. Amazing line, one I’d love to come back some day and try.
Bearcam asks “Where are the projects?”
A few days later, spurned on by rumours of “the best project in Red Rocks”, I made a huge day of hiking on another non-climbing day, marching into Mud Springs from north of Black Velvet to check out an incredible new boulder. The trail was barely there as I cut directly across the prickly yucca and cholla. And the rumours were true. A massive orange belly with a perfect jug to jump start to. Nalle Hukkataival thankfully was motivated to put in some work and walked away with the FA of one of the best 8Cs in the world Kintsugi. Even though I may never even get a chance to come back and try this line, it’s an inspiring piece of rock, and a motivating effort from Nalle.
With so much rock to see and so many places to explore it’s easy to feel pulled into many directions. Before I left though I was committed to seeing another classic Ethan Pringle problem Stand and Deliver V11. I finally made it up into the canyon. Stand and Deliver is one of the best problems of it’s grade that I’ve seen in America. The rock is down-right velvety. It’s got a fairly obvious start, a fairly flat landing, it’s not contrived and the quality of the rock is second to none. A four star problem in my opinion, one of only a few in the country I would say that about. It gave me a nice challenge, and I fell off the top a few times before coming up with a better sequence and getting it done on my last day.
While Las Vegas itself is a strange place, the bouldering in Red Rocks is obviously top notch. I’m thrilled to have had the chance to spend a few weeks there, watching the wild burros, visiting Death Valley on a rest day, walking The Strip, and bouldering my heart out. I climbed with so many people it would ridiculous to list them all, but each one was it’s own unique experience. It was great to reconnect with some old friends, makes some new ones, and feel, even if for a moment, the sometimes the weight of my current responsibilities had lifted. I look forward to heading back soon, if I can ever pull myself away from the demands of school and trying to develop more amazing rock closer to home. W3rd!